I once had a vivid dream that the sun was slowly headed towards Earth, about to scorch the planet, and I was in a line waiting to board a spaceship. Among those standing next to me, hoping to leave earth before it faced incineration, was Bill Murray. He just stood next to me, waiting for his turn, like everyone else.
The makers of This is The End understand the sad, human comedy about this fact: when it comes to facing a full blown apocalypse, there is no hierarchy in survival. Celebrity, privilege and power fade away when you’re scrambling to survive.
A cluster of movie stars (including Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and Jonah Hill), all playing themselves, turn up at James Franco’s house for a wild party. The celebrities only gradually realize that their world outside is burning to a crisp. Baruchel is the first to note that the events they’re witnessing bears an uncanny resemblance to the book of Revelation.
Here is one of the foulest comedies of the year, a 100-proof raunch fest with no sex or nudity but containing more profanity and bold vulgarity than The Hangover Part III. It’s juvenile, silly and grotesquely violent at times. Most importantly, like a good dirty joke you feel guilty for laughing at, This is The End is consistently funny, with a number of sequences that are laugh-til-you-can’t-breathe hilarious.
Tonally, it somewhat resembles Kevin Smith’s Dogma, with its mix of constant F-bombs and semi-thoughtful musings on biblical text. There’s also random spoofs of classic horror films, special effects ranging from amusingly obvious to truly stunning and enough spectacle to rival a Roland Emmerich movie.
In teasing the public images of the cast, the actors gamely ham it up, though the movie could’ve gone farther in tarring and feathering the pedigree of Hollywood’s fratboy superstars. The satire isn’t as sharp as it should’ve been, with crass jokes sometimes taking the place of genuinely smart ones, but moments of comic brilliance shine through. The cleverest conceit here is that these actors are hopeless clods when privilege and fame can’t help them.
I won’t give away the best jokes but will give special mention to Michael Cera, a famously sweet and reserved actor, here playing “himself” as a coked-out party monster. The cameo appearances that stack up in the second and third act are lots of fun. My lips are sealed but I suspect a certain 90s band will experience a comeback of sorts following this movie’s release. There’s also Hill’s prayer, which begins, “Dear God, it’s me, Jonah Hill… from Moneyball…”
The screenplay by Evan Goldberg and Rogen has the anything-goes comic spirit of South Park or an especially lewd Bill and Ted sequel. Many scenes make references to the prior films of the cast, with a special focus on Pineapple Express. If you’re not familiar with movies ranging from Superbad to Your Highness, you may be lost (just as those not up on the View Askew universe have no clue why Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is so funny). It goes without saying that if you can’t stand the cast or their movies, this won’t win you over.
Rogen and Goldberg also collaborated on The Green Hornet, which gets lampooned here as well. I’m one of the few who really enjoyed that one and admired their post-modern deconstruction and rude re-imaging of the Comic Book Movie. This is The End should play like the final word on dumb 21st century white boy farces; at times, it comes close. Like Hot Tub Time Machine, it’s not quite the classic some claim it to be but it’s as funny as it’s high concept premise, which is good enough.
THIS IS THE END
Rated R/107 min